Acton to speak at OWU’s May 7 commencement


In awarding Amy Acton, M.D., M.P.H., a Profile in Courage Award, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation stated that her COVID-19 “leadership put Ohio ahead of most other states in responding to the virus.”

But, the foundation noted, “she became the target of protesters and legislators, who sought to limit her power and even engaged in personal attacks against her” in her work as the senior health adviser to Gov. Mike DeWine and, before that, as the first woman director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Acton will discuss leadership with Ohio Wesleyan University’s Class of 2022 when she gives the keynote address at OWU’s 178th commencement ceremony. Her presentation is titled “The Leader We All Wish We Had is You!”

At the May 7 event, Acton also will be awarded an Ohio Wesleyan Honorary Doctor of Science degree in recognition of her exemplary leadership and contributions to the betterment of the world. An honorary degree is the highest award bestowed by the university.

Acton was nominated for the honorary degree by Shala Hankison, Ph.D., an Ohio Wesleyan associate professor of Biological Sciences and a 1995 OWU graduate.

“During a pandemic that has been consistently politicized, Acton gave guidance based on scientific knowledge and best practices in an ever-changing knowledge landscape,” Hankison said. “Her strong, science-based leadership was an inspiration and a source of comfort, especially during the early stages of the pandemic when so little was known.”

Among the many accolades she has received, earlier this month Acton was named USA TODAY’s Women of Year honoree from Ohio. According to the publication, all of the 2022 honorees “lead and inspire, promote and fight for equity, give others a place to seek help and find hope. They are strong and resilient women who have been champions of change and courage, often quietly, but with powerful results.”

Acton holds a medical degree from the Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine and a Master of Public Health from The Ohio State University. She is a licensed physician in preventive medicine and public health, and she completed internship and residency training in pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Acton also completed residency training in preventive medicine at Ohio State, where she previously served on the faculty.

Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said Acton is the ideal person to speak to and inspire OWU’s Class of 2022.

“Ohio Wesleyan works to prepare students to be engaged citizens, moral leaders, and innovative problem-solvers,” Jones said. “Dr. Amy Acton embodies all of these qualities.

“That she was selected from thousands of nominees to receive a 2021 Profile in Courage Award speaks volumes about who she is and what she stands for,” Jones said. “This was reinforced by her new USA TODAY Women of the Year recognition. We are privileged to have Dr. Acton speak to our graduates and to recognize her with an OWU honorary degree for her work in science and medicine.”

Ohio Wesleyan’s 2022 commencement ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. May 7. Weather permitting, the event will be held outdoors on the lawn in front of Merrick Hall, 65 S. Sandusky St., Delaware. The ceremony will be streamed live and archived online at Learn more at


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